Dinner In Under 30 Minutes
- Prep time: 10 min
- Cook time: 10 min
- Ready in: 20 min
- Yields: 1 person but easy to scale up for a whole family
Quick & Easy Meatloaf Meal
Meatloaf has remained an exceptionally popular dish for many years because it tastes great and it is easy to base an entire meal around. Just whip up some mashed potatoes, cook a few vegetables and throw it all on a plate with a bottle of ketchup nearby and you have a pretty respectable dinner. But it is not very often that meatloaf is used in more interesting ways like the one I am going to teach you right now.
The meal described above is basically a deconstructed cottage pie (also called a Shepherd's Pie) and you will probably notice that, when you eat it, you like to get a little bit of everything in each bite. Except for kids who feed the vegetables to the dog when you are not looking. And yet for some reason kids love cottage pie. Same ingredients, same wonderful flavors but opposite results.
So here is a very fast and simple recipe for reconstructing meatloaf into a delicious cottage pie and tricking your children into eating healthy too.
- Meatloaf, Pre-made e.g. Safeway
- Mashed Potatoes, Instant is fine
- Vegetables, Frozen works just fine
- Gravy or Sauce, Optional
The Potato Layer Scored With A Fork
Meatloaf Cottage Pie
- The grocery store, Safeway, makes an excellent meatloaf that you can pick up ready made and hot so there is no need to cook one from scratch. But you will need to cut it into strips about as thick as your thumb. You are going to use these strips or bricks to line the bottom of the baking tray (don't worry, there is no actual baking!)
- Line the bottom of a baking pan with the meatloaf tiles. The size of the pan will depend on how many people you are feeding.
- Pour a layer of vegetables on top of the meatloaf pieces. Frozen vegetables are fine, just make sure you defrost and drain them first by giving them a quick heat in the microwave and then putting them into a strainer in the sink to let the excess water run off. Don't over heat the vegetables, you are just warming them up, not cooking them as they are already cooked. You want to add a layer of vegetables that is about as thick as the layer of meatloaf or maybe a little thicker.
- Optional Step: if you want to add some gravy at this point for a little more depth of flavor, you can, but this recipe it tasty enough and doesn't really need it if you would prefer to skip this step. There are a lot of decent gravy mixes that only require the addition of warm water to make. Personally, I skip the gravy step but I do like to get my favorite steak sauce or even BBQ sauce and mix it with a small amount of water to make it easier to pour. Whether you use gravy or sauce, just pour it over the top of the vegetables. About half a cup will be fine for most meals.
- Using hot water, prepare the instant mashed potatoes. Add a little butter if you like to make them a little more rich and creamy. I add garlic salt and some kind of paprika for flavor.
- Layer the mashed potatoes over the vegetables, pushing down just a little with the back of your spoon or fork to force some of the potatoes in between the vegetables. This helps bond the two layers together. You want to create a layer of mashed potatoes about at least as thick as the vegetables layer.
- Now that the potato layer is added, use a fork to score the top of them. Think of it as raking a lawn. You do this so that you can create ridges in the potatoes that will crisp up when you put it under the broiler. (see photo above, right for what it should look like.)
- Put it under the broiler until the potato ridges turn a delicious, golden brown. This should take about 10 minutes or less and, when you take it out, it should be warm and ready to eat. The vegetables should have been warmed enough between the warm meatloaf and the freshly made, mashed potatoes but, if you would like the whole dish to be warmer, just serve yourself up a piece and pop it in the microwave for a minute.
- You now have a delicious meatloaf and vegetable pie that tastes incredible. See below for other ways to develop this meal and for suggestions of what to dow ith left over meatloaf.
30 Minute Meals
Developing More Flavor
If you want to develop some more flavor into this meal, there are a few quick and easy things you can do.
Use Fresh Vegetables - frozen vegetables work just fine but not quite as flavorful as fresh vegetables. To prepare them, get some of your favorite vegetables, carrots, peas, onion, cabbage and brussel sprouts work well, and dice them i.e. cut them into small pieces about the size of your fingernails. You can either toss them all in a pot to boil for about 5-10 minutes or you can steam them. You will know when they are done when you can easily put a fork through them. If you boil them, scoop the vegetables out of the water and keep the water to make the mashed potatoes with because it acts like a vegetable stock and will infuse your potato mix with flavor.
Use Rosemary - rosemary and mashed potatoes goes together like beer and chicken wings, a delightful pairing! To make rosemary mashed potatoes, finely chop some rosemary and toss it in a small pan. You can use either fresh or dried rosemary, it doesn't matter. Add to the pan some butter and some milk. The milk and butter add a creaminess to the potatoes that water just cannot replicate so you will need to play with the mixture to get it right for you. Start with a teaspoon of butter and a half cup or cup of milk. SLOWLY bring the heat up until it just barely starts to simmer. If you heat it too fast the milk will turn and you will have to start all over. Stir it constantly and simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Now start adding the potato mixture and mix enough for your meal. Simple and delicious.
What To Do With Leftover Meatloaf?
Make it Decadent - I love to eat meatloaf with Mac N' Cheese. I slice the meatloaf into a piece about as thick as my thumb and put it into the bottom of a bowl. I usually give it a quick sear in a really hot, non-stick saucepan for just about a minute on each side because I like the crispiness of the texture when I do that. Then I heat the Kraft Mac n' Cheese and pour it right over the top of the meatloaf. I squirt in some Chipotle Tabasco sauce and it's an amazingly delicious meal.
Meatloaf Sandwich - one of the best sandwiches you will ever have! It can be as simple as some bread and a slice of meatloaf or more developed like this: smear the bread with some mustard, ketchup or BBQ sauce. Lay on a slice of cheese. Add some fresh spinach or lettuce. Add some onion. Tomato if you want and maybe even some pickle. Eat. Enjoy.
Have It With Pasta - chop it up, add it to some pasta sauce and you have an instant bolognese sauce for any pasta you wish to add it to.
With Beans - one of my favorite ways to enjoy meatloaf is with baked beans. I slice some tomatoes up, and quickly sear them in a hot, non-stick pan. I quickly fry an egg. One of the best tasting meals you can have.
On Crackers - smear a cracker with some cream cheese, add a slice of pickle, top with a small piece of meatloaf and you have a tiny taste of heaven in every bite. I like this idea because it allows you to enjoy a lot of different flavors in one sitting. For example, you can use ketchup or mustard instead of cream cheese but you can also use something more exotic like crab or fish spread.